Jul 25, 2015

Gone Fishin'

Nate's new obsession is fishing. It's all he thinks about/ talks about/ dreams about. So Dad took him and the two little kids fishing today. It was totally a catch and release kind of thing, but they had a blast anyway. Between them, they caught twelve fish.

Abbie's fish fell off her hook as the picture was taken, so her First Fish Picture is a collage...

All three kids baited their own hooks and took the fish off all by themselves. They used real worms, too, so Abbie was pretty grossed out, but she did it!

Jul 23, 2015

Schoolhouse Review Crew: SimplyFun

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Like most kids, my kids love games. We have a big closet full of games and the kids spend a major portion of their free time dragging one or the other out to the dining room table to play. I believe there is something to be learned from almost any game, but some games just have an extra educational punch to them. These, of course, are my favorite games for the kids to play, but they often turn up their noses at them. So I am always on the lookout for games that are educational but still engaging. So I was delighted to be asked to review Shape Whiz by SimplyFun.

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  Shape Whiz is a card game that teaches geometry. Since this is a topic that I struggle with, it's a subject that my kids lack in as well. As soon as we got it in the mail, Abbie and I sat down to play. She is my math-loving kid, and I figured it would be easier to teach the kids one at a time. Because I was expecting this to be a complicated, slow game that I would have to force them to play. The games consists of three decks of cards and instructions. Well, actually, it's two decks but one is color-coded into simple and complex. The rules advise you to use the simple deck for an easier game and both colors for a harder game. Since we were just starting out, we chose to just use one deck and we have yet to graduate to using two.

These cards look like this:

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(the harder ones are green)

These cards are dealt to each player. You get a stack of fifteen and then you lay three of those face up in front of you. Then you are ready to play.

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The other deck of cards goes in the middle of the table. These have questions on both sides but you only play one side at a time. They have the question printed twice so that it is easy for everyone to read all at the same time. Because speed is of the essence.

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Once the card is flipped over and read, (generally, the kids read it aloud in unison)

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Then you try to match one of the face-up black cards to the question. You want to be the first one to put a correct card out there. You can use an opponent's card if you are quick enough to grab it before they do!

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In theory, you can tell by looking if you are right or not, but we are not confident enough in our knowledge, so we always flip the answer card over to see who got it right.

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The properties of your shape are clearly listed on the back of the card, so it is easy to tell. Does this card match?

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If you are right, there is some shuffling of cards that rids you of one out of your stack. If you are wrong, you wind up adding another card to your stack. If you use an opponent's card, it is still you that gains or loses a card and nothing happens to their stack.

The goal is to empty your stack first. 

It plays quickly and the kids have been learning a lot about geometry terms, principles and facts. They are also learning and reviewing some math signs and symbols. Because they are having to think fast and the game doesn't drag, they stay engaged in learning and don't whine about it at all. 

We have played this game many times and this is what they have to say about it.

Kaytie: It's a good game to teach geometry and certain math skills such as symmetry, greater than/ less than, area and perimeter. It's also a really fun game even if you already know that stuff. It's a good game to teach you to do math really quickly in your head. (which I'm not good at at all but will get better because of Shape Whiz!) 

Nate: It was slightly interesting. I learned some stuff and I got to explain some stuff to Kaytie: like lines of symmetry. I like lines of symmetry. It's a fun game. I will most definitely choose to play this again. 

Daniel: It's fun. I like it because it is involved with math. I learned a lot of math. I learned about parallel lines. I want to play it some more. I didn't like that it was a little complicated at first. But it did get easier. 

Abbie: It's fun. It's kinda confusing and stressful because it's hard to win. Especially with my family! They are fast and it's hard to put something out before them. I learned what a parallel line is and area and lines of symmetry. I like this game. 

They are all looking forward to challenging a cousin or two and some friends at Shape Whiz !

Simply Fun Review
Crew Disclaimer

Jul 21, 2015

Homeschool Review Crew: Home School In The Woods

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 I love history. As a free-wheeling homeschooled kid, I learned history in a fun, engaging way. I read about it. I learned history not as a list of events, dates, and places, but as a colorful array of stories about people. I've tried to pass this idea of history on to my kids: that it's about people, their successes, their failings, their hopes and plans and cunning schemes. That it's full of stories of love and hate and unflinching courage in desperate times. So I'm always on the lookout for curriculum that uses this view of history. Therefore, one of my favorite history-producing companies is Home School in the Woods. And I was excited when they asked us to review Project Passport World History Study: Ancient Egypt.

Home School in the Woods Review

Project Passport is their newest line and it is amazing. I've used their products before, an Activity Pak that we reviewed, a Time Travelers study that we used a few years ago and that I'm pulling activity ideas from for a co-op class this fall, and, of course, their Timeline Figures that I absolutely love.

Home School in the Woods Review
We received the download and it was quick and easy to install. Then came the hard part. There was a lot of information to read and absorb. Project Passport is huge and every inch of it is cram packed full of resources. There is a lot of printing to be done. A ton of sorting and organizing and just thinking through things because there is so much offered that you have to pick and choose what to do. Otherwise you might just still be teaching Ancient Egypt to your college graduates! :) Once you have a handle on how the program works and what you need to do, it really flows quite simply. 
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There are 25 lessons, called "stops", but these aren't necessarily meant to be done in one sitting. This is a very adaptable product. You can draw the work out as your child needs. You can rush through it in as little as 8 weeks, or you could potentially make it cover an entire school year. You can use it as a full curriculum or you can use it as a supplement to fill out an Egyptian study. You can use it with one child or you can use it across age groups. The suggested age is grades 3 to 8 and my 3rd grader and 7th grader were both enjoyably challenged as we worked through the material. Some of them were a little bit of a struggle for the little kids and I had to remind them to just do their best. And some were a little easy-peasy for my older kids and I had to remind them to always do their best and not coast. :)
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What I liked the most about Project Passport is it's versibility. In the download, everything is sorted into files. So you can just go right to the pages you need printed and just print away. Or pull up the texts that you need to read (these are PDFs so you can print them or you can send them to your ereader) or your answer keys or your teacher guide or whatever. OR, you can click on a "start" file and it pulls up the entire thing, all laid out in order with clickable links so you can just start at the beginning and work your way through. So whichever way your mind works it's handy.
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The teacher guide is also offered a couple of ways: as an entire document overview or in lesson sized chunks with all the little details. So I could see at a glance what we were going to do over the next few lessons or I could just focus on what I needed to do for each particular lesson.
So each Lesson or Stop, includes:
  •  a text to read, 
  • an "itinerary" which lays out the lesson in order and tells you, the teacher exactly what to do and when. These contain graphic details, directions, illustrations to show you how it's supposed to look, symbols that tell you what kind of activity it is, and where to find the printables that you need
  • 2 or 3 activities that can be: booklets or foldables for your lapbook; adding to your timeline; printing and playing a game; cooking; or making a craft

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The bits of reading are not very long, but they are meaty. They held my kids' attention and they came away with real information. 

The texts are not dry fact sprinkled with dates and place names but are glimpses of the lives of real people told simply and briefly. It often inspired my kids to dig deeper and learn more.

Some of the projects are a one-time thing and some of them span the entire program. This helped my kids understand that not everything can be done in one sitting but that some projects are a process. This is a weakness of theirs and I liked that we had to put stuff away and get it out later to finish working on it. 
Not only are there a lot of projects, but there is a wide variety of projects: 3-D crafts; lapbook pieces; audio clips to listen to; food; games; translating English into hieroglyphics; writing a newspaper; mapping; making bricks out of real mud. This kept us fresh and interested. It's also nice because not all of my kids enjoy the same things so even though they might not enjoy every single thing that we did, they were all able to enjoy at least part of the activities.
For each project, there is a picture of what it is supposed to look like. I'm a visual person, so lengthy directions often lose me. But if I can just see the finished project then I can grasp what you are trying to say so much more easily! The kids also liked looking at the pictures and seeing what the end result was supposed to be.
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The printing. Oh my goodness the printing. I think I singlehandedly killed an entire forest and used up two lifetimes of ink allotment.  But I understand that this is a necessary evil. :) And I compensated by not doing every project offered and by only printing one copy when I could get away with it and letting the kids work together on projects.
The booklist was short and we already had read or knew about 90% of it. But booklists are a lot easier to come by than quality projects and activities so this isn't that big of a deal, either.
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This was so easy to implement! I would print off what I wanted for each lesson and then I would gather the kids around the table. I read the text aloud right off the laptop screen and then they would go to work. 
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We've been taking our time and going slowly, but when school starts up again we plan to buckle down and finish it up. Since we have been studying the Ancients in history this fit in right where we needed it to and I'm planning on using the Middle Ages and Renaissance Project Passports when we get to those points in our journey through history.  
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Home School in the Woods Review

Crew Disclaimer

Jul 14, 2015

Morning Meeting

We have always done some form of Circle Time. Back in the day, we used it to learn the alphabet, days of the week, months of the year, etc. Now, we use it to memorize Scripture, read books that I would otherwise never get to, discuss character issues, and enjoy poetry and art appreciation.

The name has changed as well. We outgrew "Circle Time" a few years ago. We tried calling it Creche Conference, in an attempt to be witty, but that never really caught on. Last year we found ourselves referring to it as Morning Time, so I just tweaked it into Morning Meeting. I think that will stick quite well.

It seems to work best for us to combine this time with breakfast. The kids participate so much better, which makes me happy, and they wind up eating a lot more than they normally do (since I'm not rushing them to finish and start school) which makes them happy. And, now that we have the baby to babysit, it provides a built-in way to keep him distracted and happy. Which makes all the rest of us happy!

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 Every year, what we do in this time changes ever so slightly. Some things that I plan never really work out and then I find other things that I want to add in. So this year, my plans for Morning Meeting involves some Loop Scheduling. This makes me nervous, because doing different things every day in Morning Meeting has never worked for me before. If I have to think too much about what we are doing, then I tend to forget stuff which ends up with me dropping stuff. But I'm hoping that the loop, rather than assigning days, will make a difference. Or it might just confuse me all the more. We'll see.

Here's our plan:

Every day, we will: 

pray and read the Bible: we were in Acts when school ended last year, so we will just pick up where we left off and then choose another book when it's done

memorize Scripture: We will be working through Psalm 119 and also Colossians 3. I intend to give them Memory Work Binders this year to help us memorize more effortlessly and to help with the distraction factor.

sing a hymn: or actually two. We sing our way through the hymn book (all the ones I know, anyway) by singing a new one every week. But there are some that I want them to know by heart, so we sing those a month each.

practice math facts with wrap-ups: They love this and they compete against themselves. Everybody is working on a different set. When they can do a key in under 30 seconds, they move on to the next.

practice flashcards: we have Latin cards, math fact cards, science vocabulary cards, math vocabulary cards, phonics cards for the little kids, spelling cards, Spanish cards, sign language cards, and probably others that I'm not remembering right now. I'm going to put them all together (separated) in a box and we will just rotate through the different stacks. Ordinarily, we never remember to do flashcards on a regular basis, so I'm hoping this will get them done and done in a fun, competitive sort of way.

read from our current History read-aloud

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And once a week we:

work on memorizing a poem

work on memorizing the catechism

work on memorizing a science fact: we will start with the names and order of the planets, Nate knows this, and Kaytie knows 75% but the little kids do not, so we will start with something easy that we can conquer quickly and then move on.

do a Charlotte Mason form of Artist Study

practice our Latin chants and/or prayers

read a poem from 742 Heart Warming Poems which I am only using because it was a favorite book of mine when I was a kid and I have the copy that I read over and over

read from a rotating list of books: Book of Virtues, Little Pilgrim's Progress, It Couldn't Just Happen and Mr. Pipes and Psalms and Hymns of the Reformation

make an entry into our Thankful Journals

The way we will use the loop schedule is like this: from the once a week list, we just do two every day. So if we miss Morning Meeting, then nothing gets left out, we just do the next on the list the next day.

and that's it.

You can read about a couple of our old Circle Times

Circle Time 2009

Crece Conference 2014

If you are new to the Morning Time idea, check out these posts from people who do it better than I

Morning Time Moms

Simply Convivial: What Is Circle Time?

ebook from Preschoolers and Peace

A list of resources from Preschoolers and Peace

Jul 8, 2015

What Lasts Longer Than A Lollipop?

Nate has fifty cents burning a hole in his pocket. When we went to the store, he desperately wanted to spend it on a gourmet lollipop. But I said, "No."

He thought this was unjust. "I should be able to spend my money however I want."

I pointed out that this was a myth. Adults don't spend their money however they want. Did he think Daddy wanted to spend his money on the electric bill?

Well, no, he acknowledged, but that's because Daddy was a grown up. He, Nate, was just a kid and had no bills. Therefore, Hello, Lollipop!

So I launched into a lengthy discussion about how, as his parents, it was our job to teach him the skills he needs as an adult. How we were trying to instill in him the idea NOW that money is a tool to be used and he should manage it wisely. This way, he won't have to learn these lessons as an adult.

"See," I explained, "You can spend that fifty cents on a sucker that lasts you thirty seconds, or you can save it and earn more money and put it toward something with more lasting value."

He thought about this for a minute and then said, "Ok. I'll wait. Then when we go to Dollar Tree you can give me a dollar and I can buy some gum."

When I started laughing, he was indignant. "But gum lasts longer than a lollipop! And that's what you SAID! You said, 'Buy something that lasts longer!' So you have no right to be laughing right now."

He never did admit that he didn't get the point.

Jul 4, 2015

Happy Independence Day!

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from the world's most patriotic penguins


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